That a court ruling in Jamaica upheld the ban on kids wearing dreadlocks in schools last week is shocking will be an understatement even as the parents of the seven-year-old insist they will not cut her natural hair.
“I will not be cutting her hair! That was never an option on the table. As it is right now, it seems that everything is going the home school direction anyways,” Sherine Virgo the mother said after the Supreme Court ruling
“I expected that Jamaica would lead the charge against somewhat systemic racism as it relates to our hair,” the child’s father Dale Virgo said of the decision, which came after the Kensington Primary School said in 2018 that his daughter needed to cut her hair for reasons of ‘discipline’ and ‘hygiene,’ a policy which the country’s government said was legitimate.
The family had taken an injunction in 2019 against Jamaica’s Ministry of Education for the little girl in question to even be allowed to attend the school while wearing her natural Black hair.
There is a strong thread of anti-Blackness and colonialism that still exists in Jamaica despite its majority-Black population, exemplified by the irony that this ruling came on the eve of the country celebrating the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves on August 1, 1834.
Rastafarians, who follow a philosophy grounded in Blackness, have historically experienced persecution and discrimination from the Jamaican government, including a state-sponsored massacre 1963—a few years after the country gained its independence from Britain.
Though the Virgos are not adherents of the Rastafarian religion, the couple’s attorney Isat Buchanan told the Washington Post that the ruling against their daughter wearing her Black hair in natural locks, “marks an unfortunate for Black people and for Rastafarian people in Jamaica.”
Despite happily promoting Jamaicans with dreadlocks in commercials that encourage tourists to visit the island, elected leaders there seem to have little allegiance to the cultural exemplifiers of Jamaican Blackness that they happily leverage to sell the country to foreigners.
“I’m very cautious about where I tread, especially on a sensitive enough subject like that,” said the country’s Minister of Education Karl Samuda as he declined comment on the ruling.
The Virgo family says they plan to appeal the decision, which could mean it goes to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom their former colonial master which still remain the country’s ultimate court of appeal.